October 17, 2011
Score and situation: The improbable run continues for the St. Louis Cardinals. They weren't supposed to win the NL wild card. They weren't supposed to beat the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS. Surely, they couldn't also defeat the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLCS? Yet the Cards are off to the World Series after a 12-6 victory at Miller Park on Sunday night. It's the 18th National League pennant that the Cardinals have won.
Leading lads: David Freese(notes) put the Brewers back on their heels early on with a three-run homer in the first inning. He capped off an excellent NLCS with a 3-for-4 performance. The Cardinals' biggest bat wasn't quiet, either. Albert Pujols(notes) drove in two runs with a home run and single. Rafael Furcal(notes) also showed some sneaky power by also going deep.
Head hangers: The Brew Crew needed a strong start from Shaun Marcum(notes) and didn't get it. Not even close. Marcum affirmed Milwaukee's worst fears as the Cardinals teed off on him right away. Putting the Brewers in a 4-0 hole, Marcum was done after the first inning. Chris Narveson(notes) didn't exactly settle things down when he took over, giving up another five runs in 1 2/3 innings.
Key play: Can we go back to Freese's home run? The three-run shot off Marcum set the tone for the game, forcing Milwaukee to play catchup for the rest of the night.
Interesting stat: How rough a night was it for the Brewers' pitching staff? Milwaukee didn't retire the Cardinals in order until the sixth inning. St. Louis got at least one hit in every other frame.
What they'll be talking about: Ron Roenicke will surely be second-guessed for starting Marcum in a must-win game. That decision, along with Marcum's terrible final four starts, will be rehashed through the winter. As for the NLCS winners, the Cardinals will likely be seen as a heavy underdog to the Texas Rangers. But hasn't this team been written off at every turn since late August? Who's to say they can't surprise us for one more series?
What's next: The Cardinals are back in the World Series for the second time in six years. With the National League winning the All-Star game, they'll have home-field advantage and host the Rangers for Game 1 on Wednesday. Chris Carpenter will take on C.J. Wilson(notes) in a battle of the aces.
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